Sunday, November 19, 2017

Deathbringer



It's Hercules!

Deathbringer is a horizontally-scrolling hack and slasher that reminds me of a bunch of different Atari ST games like Barbarian II, Golden Axe and, dare I say it, Shadow Of The Beast. You are Karn, a warrior who must kill an evil wizard using a sword possessed by a blood-hungry spirit called Abaddon. Our world is viewed side-on and can be travelled in either direction through a variety of landscapes but the gameplay remains pretty much the same which means wielding your huge sword whenever you see anything nasty.

Karn can run and jump using three attack moves: fire + left/right for a jab that is handy against skeletons but useless for others. Push up for an overhead swing - great for flying enemies. Pull down for an underhanded swing that works well for the goblins and other peculiar nasties like rocks. Yep, rocks.

Killing is the name of the game and this keeps Abaddon happily stuffed with souls - represented in the status bar by the sword's blood. The more baddies you kill, the happier our resident demon, so try not to starve him otherwise he might just get his fix elsewhere... There are many monsters that want to stop you from completing your noble quest: baby dragons, trolls, skeletons, bats, giants, and even birds who drop stinky eggs. A boss screen follows each level but they are rather easy and usually involve chopping off a snake's head or avoiding giant fists!



Psygnosis eat your heart out!

Deathbringer has fantastic graphics - truly fantastic - and regular visitors will remember I featured the game within our Pixel Art section because of its intro/boss stages and other outstanding artwork. The in-game multilayer parallax scrolling is legendary and proves the power of the Atari ST in the hands of a decent programmer.

They've made our lame port of Shadow Of The Beast look like Pong!!

The audio is on par with the stunning visuals and a great title tune along with lots of funny in-game sampled sound effects - I love the horrific screaming in the intro!! However, I can't help but be a disappointed Empire didn't make use of the Atari STe. Even so, we have sampled effects and smooth parallax scrolling. Eat that Psygnosis!



The CryptO'pinion?

Deathbringer appears to have it all but I've not yet mentioned how this Conan wannabe actually plays. Surely running and hacking at slimeball enemies is guaranteed fun? Well, it should be but this is where disappointment rears its ugly head thanks to the unresponsive controls and that's the last thing you need during the heat of battle!

For example, press fire/up for an overhead swing which actions a split-second later. Other niggles exist like when Karn and a baddie are standing too close - so are unable to hit each other!

Deathbringer's strong points are its beautiful graphics, great sound effects and an incredible array of interesting monsters. Well, I don't think I have ever seen a goblin on a sleigh before! Sadly, I'm left wondering if anyone at Empire actually bothered to play this game before releasing it. Probably not, which is oddly peculiar.

Ultimately, a good game but the laggy controls that ruin what might have been a fantastic game.



Stonish has the floppies (Special FX (#53a / #53b)
But I would install to a hard drive if you can!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Berzerk


I strangely felt the need to compensate for my gaming horror (which saw me embarrassingly struggling with Platform Capers) so Dave Munsie has rushed to my rescue with his adaption of the 8-Bit classic, Berzerk. However, I admit I had my fingers crossed when first loading, hoping it didn't suck compared to the great 2600/5200 games...

We are the wobbly stickman intruder running around randomly generated screens killing silly robots. These guys are a mixed bunch, some dumb enough to fry themselves on the electrified walls whilst others are amazingly accurate shooters. Try to kill them all and collect your bonus reward otherwise, you're called a chicken!! Otto is as fearless as ever and only too eager to rear his smiley mug and chase you across the screen.

Some (those under 40) might scoff at the blocky graphics. Yes, I appreciate that they aren't spruced up to ST standards but that would have ruined the authenticity completely. Also, I love the speech synthesis which is spot-on perfect and makes me grin like the Cheshire Cat. "Chicken, fight like a robot" -this is brilliant!!

Berzerk is fantastic and this is one of the best 8-Bit conversions I have ever played. Overall, an easy 10/10!!

- Download the floppies from Stonish -

Monday, November 13, 2017

Platform Capers


Platform Capers was released in 1992 by Kay Downes for Budgie UK and has obvious 8-Bit roots which is something I'm usually instantly attracted too. Aesthetically, I feel it's a cross between Clod Hopper, Jumping Jack and Donkey Kong with adorable authentic graphics and sound effects. These transport me back into the early 80s when I was a kid sitting in my cold room in front of an old portable tv waiting of my Speccy to finish loading from tape.

The objective is simple, collect the keys on each of the levels before exiting through the doorway. However, there is a myriad of frustratingly cunning enemies we need to avoid, otherwise, a life is lost and we go tumbling down the screen like a fat plumber. I believe there are 7 levels but I dare anyone to complete it without cheating: I can reach level 4 but rarely will I be able to complete level 3, if I'm honest. On bad days, I struggle to beat level 2 and usually end up throwing the joystick down in temper! Superbly programmed but the design is far too difficult (for me).

I love and hate Platform Capers in equal measure.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Deskpic


I was bored and converted a picture I found on the net to 16-colours using Imagecopy 4. I figured it would make a great background so booted up Deskpic - which is on ST Format cover disk #60. Awesome sauce!

That's my rock and roll lifestyle, baby. Yep. Anyhow, STay Atari.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

The Lost World



Yet another unreleased game!

The Lost World was developed in 1989 by John Leather who, sadly, didn't manage to find a publisher. The game itself is complete except for the audio and he "only" managed to create half of the planned 100 levels. What a slacker, eh? I've always loved platformers of this ilk and it's obvious that John was inspired by various 8-Bit games with superb level names and a character that even walks quite similar to Master Willy, which I liked.

Since then, Grazey added an unreleased Mad Max chiptune that plays in the background. This ended the deafening silence and suits the gameplay too. So, I just had to tick this off my bucket list and take it for a spin...


Just look at the intricate layout and design. You ain't gonna complete this on your first go!!


Let's begin!

The Lost World is very challenging and I admit to struggling at first. The first screen is tough and it took me more than a few attempts before I beat it. Thankfully, this game is generous with many bonuses littered throughout along with stickmen for extra lives. Pressing the spacebar displays a dialogue of potential spells and potions for effects like invulnerability. Also, I love how each screen has a different name, like Pie Processing Plant!!

The controls are superb with simple movements that feel natural for a 2D platformer. You'll appreciate that because the level design is very cunning with lots of hazards, be it a sharp object, sinking ledges or tricky-jumps. Evil critters roaming the screens and they aren't limited to simply moving back 'n forth. Did I mention this was a tough platformer? Well, level two is actually a little easier but the third cranked up that difficulty once again. Sadly, I didn't beat 'The Locksmith' so I fear it's doubtful I'll be disappointed John didn't fulfil the plan to create more screens!

Perhaps I should try the level editor? Yep, if dozens of levels aren't enough for you, then why not try creating some for yourself using the in-game editor? That's quite exciting and the potential is huge!



Whatever you do, don't forget the keys... What's the little man doing there?


Willy's mansion never looked this good!

The graphics are a true 16-Bit spin on an 8-Bit genre and look lovely. Every screen is stuffed to the brim with incredible decor using intricate attention to detail. I love the colour schemes and sprites move smoothly.

Audio never made it into the original and made your Atari ST as loud as a ZX81. Thankfully, Grazey (Psycho Hacking Force) changed that so we now get to enjoy a fantastic Mad Max chiptune. It's brilliant, of course, but I admit to missing sound effects for the jumping and collisions. I know, I'm being picky but I do miss those effects.


That purple flying monster is a pain in the £@$!! and killed me more than once!


The CryptO'pinion?

For a homebrew game, this is huge and I don't simply mean the number of levels. The creativity that went into the development is exquisite and there is always something new that catches you out and makes you come back for more. However, it is really hard so be warned!! But please, don't be a wimp, learn the mechanics and beat its cruel learning curve. When you do, you are rewarded with a tremendously addictive platformer.


D-Bug has both of the downloads and
AtariMania has level editor help!

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

The Ultimate Arena



Wax on, wax off...

The Ultimate Arena was released in 1995 by STeam and ranks as one of the last commercial Atari STe games. Choose to play as Sandy or Terry before proceeding to the first match against a series of dodgy villains, each of whom has their own skillset and special abilities. Some might say it is Atari Mortal Kombat and why not because we must now fight in various arenas against several lunatics whilst watched by a bloodthirsty crowd.

Each arena offers a different environment and I chuckled to myself when I first noticed the electrified fence - just one touch and you're crispy burnt toast!! Each warrior has their own trippy personality with a varying degree of speed, talent and special abilities. Watch out for a T800 which I thought was really well done and there is also an Indiana Jones wannabe who is an incredibly tough opponent. Interestingly, your energy bar isn't fully replenished at the start of the following round, thus increases longevity for determined gamers to figure out all the moves.


Whether you're Samantha Fox or a Terminator - this game is kick ass!! Love it!!

Showing off some cool moves there? Or is he just defying gravity? You decide.


Don’t forget to breathe, very important!

No beat 'em up would be worth its salt without fast and responsive controls to kick seven bells outta your opponent. The Ultimate Arena has what it takes and I found it easy to learn the various moves along with their special abilities. Two-player mode is great and allows us to play as the other characters (all except the final guy). A turbo mode is optional but I found that rather pointless so I cannot say I was impressed too much... Blood can also be turned on/off but I figured it best to have that on and enjoy some of that 16-Bit realism!

Like Domark's Pit Fighter, each character is digitised and they try their best to look macho whilst kicking seven bells outta you. It's quite remarkable the amount of detail squeezed into each pixel with smooth animations and the backgrounds are always interesting: like the Terminator watching you on a screen and the crowd with their silly movements. However, I'm not so sure about the colour palette which is too brownish. Okay, I was tempted to let that slide but then I remembered other Atari ST games make better use of colour, ala Black Lamp!


Kick people to death while they're already being electrocuted. It's all allowed!!

Or just pounce from a great height until they are splattered. All good fun!


The CryptO'pinion?

As I've said before, I'm no beat 'em up expert. However, I am genuinely shocked how much fun I've had playing this. I half expected this game to suck being release long after the gaming side of the ST had died. Surprisingly, it's shockingly fun and has probably replaced Double Dragon 3 as my favourite?

I also love how it doesn't take itself too seriously and the fact I can try my luck against a Terminator is kinda cool. It's obvious that a lot of hard work and love went into its production - and all during the twilight years which is extra impressive. Beating the hell out of digitised guys is a great way to spend a couple of hours!! Play this.

The floppies can be found via Old Games Finder. (but stay clear of the early beta - it's rubbish!)